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Why has Fox News abandoned Benghazi?

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Eric Wemple writes in the Washington Post:

It was December 2012, just a few months after terrorists attacked the U.S. diplomatic installation in Benghazi, Libya. Sean Hannity of Fox News was continuing his extensive coverage of the attack, as well as his denunciations of what he viewed as less inquisitive media peers. “We will continue to follow the story that the mainstream media ignores. We have four dead Americans, including two SEALs and the first ambassador killed in 30 years. And, obviously, a cover-up. And we will get to the bottom of it,” he said.

The fiery Fox News host now has an ally in that noble pursuit. There’s a trial well underway at the D.C. federal courthouse in which Libyan Ahmed Abu Khattala stands accused of conspiracy to support terrorism, among other charges, in the September 2012 attacks that quickly became a divisive political issue in the United States, with then-President Barack Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, pilloried for various alleged acts of incompetence and deception.

Truth is dribbling out of the now-six-week-long trial. We’re discovering that the United States paid a Libyan informant $7 million to secure key information from Khattala. The relationship between informant and suspect developed over many months and proved critical in assisting U.S. forces in capturing Khattala. Under the pseudonym of Ali Majrisi, the informant spoke at trial of how Khattala intended to kill “everyone there” at the Benghazi installation, a bloody ambition that extended to a rescue force that U.S. officials had sent that night from Tripoli. In other testimony, CIA officers detailed efforts to rescue U.S. personnel under attack in the Libyan city.

Good thing Fox News is there to finish the obsessive work it started, to provide a day-by-day narration of U.S. law enforcement bringing American justice to an alleged terrorist.

Um, actually: Those trial updates cited above come from Adam Goldman of the New York Times and Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post, both of whom have filed dispatches over the course of this lengthy trial. As for Fox News, there was this dispatch on the trial’s opening statements. There was this Associated Press story on FoxNews.com about the trial’s possible impact on proposals to send terrorism suspects to Guantanamo Bay. And another dispatch, also from the APAnother dispatch, also from the AP. (There’s been other FoxNews.com coverage of charges against another suspect in the attacks, Mustafa al-Imam.)

Fox News, outsourcing its Benghazi reporting to the AP? This is the same AP, mind you, that former Fox News chief Roger Ailes disparaged years ago. “It tips left all the time now,” said Ailes, who was bounced from Fox News over sexual harassment claims in 2016 and died this year.

As far as TV coverage, a Nexis search for “Benghazi and Khattala” over the past three months yields just one small mention — four sentences — on the Oct. 2 edition of “Special Report with Bret Baier.” (Nexis covers mostly prime-time shows). If Fox News’s trial coverage were consistent with its previous volume, it would be doing hourly updates from the trial, live blogs and promos, plus round-the-clock commentary on its opinion shows.

Instead, we’re stuck with the “cover-up” gang, as Hannity might say. The New York Times’ Goldman says, “I think the New York Times and The Washington Post and the mainstream media recognized the importance of covering this trial. It was a devastating terrorist attack. Four American lives were lost. We should cover this for the public. So I’m a little surprised that other American media outlets aren’t covering this trial to provide their readers or viewers with real facts.”

The drop-off is stark and inexplicable. In the 20 months following the attacks, Fox News ran in excess of 1,000 segments on Benghazi, according to a September 2014 report by Media Matters. The focus remained intact even after that, spiking upon the release of the “13 Hours” book and movie — a compelling account from the security operators who saved many American lives that night. “This movie, if it’s really popular, is going to force [Hillary Clinton] to answer some questions,” said Steve Doocy on “Fox & Friends” about the movie, which premiered during the 2016 presidential primary season.

So, why would Fox News go nuts about a Benghazi movie in early 2016, yet yawn over a Benghazi trial in 2017?  . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2017 at 1:08 pm

Posted in GOP, Media, Terrorism

White Male Terrorists Are an Issue We Should Discuss

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Lincoln Anthony Blades has a good article in Teen Vogue:

Since September 11, 2001, preventing terrorism in the United States has become one of the main concerns of citizens, policymakers, and law enforcement agencies. Leaders believe that battling “terror” isn’t just done by waging war on jihadists themselves, but also on their ideology. When an attack whose perpetrator is affiliated with Islam occurs on American soil, the nation collectively recoils in horror at the audacious attack, mourns for those we’ve lost, and then subsequently doubles down on rooting out any semblance of pro-extremist thought in our society.

When the assailant is identified, intelligence agencies conduct a thorough investigation into the subject’s known terror ties. These ties are provided to outlets that, in real time, condemn the violent extremism that animated the subject. When bad actors align themselves with extremist Islamic ideology, information about those who propagate this dangerous dogma is eagerly consumed because we deem it essential — not to just know what happened, but everything and every person that may have influenced what happened. Yet when it comes to domestic terrorism carried out by white men, such thorough accounting lacks.

Last week, America found itself in a terrifying and simultaneously familiar place: mourning the loss of life after a mass shooting. On Sunday, April 30, Monique Clark, a 35-year-old mother of three daughters, was killed after a gunman opened fire at guests at a poolside party inside an apartment complex. In addition to Clark, six other people — mostly black and Latinx — were injured in the shooting spree by a 49-year-old white male named Peter Selis. In the wake of the attack, witnesses and victims attested that race was a prominent factor in the shooting. Yet San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said just one day after the shooting that there was “zero information” that race contributed to the attack. (Navy Lt. j.g. Lauren Chapman, one of the attendees of the party, said she felt “heartbreak” at the police’s dismissal of this motive, which witnesses say was a major factor.) The shooting received such little immediate coverage that people took to social media to blast major networks and politicians for their lack of reporting, and terror context. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

6 November 2017 at 10:44 am

The USA PATRIOT Act: What You Need to Know

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Fergus O’Sullivan has a nice rundown of the USA PATRIOT Act:

Here at Cloudwards.net we’re big fans of privacy and even bigger fans of people protecting it. We’ve done an article on 99 free privacy tools and we’ve reported on the U.S. Congress allowing American ISPs to spy on their customers. In this article we’re going to take a look at the grandaddy of modern privacy-breaching legislation, the USA PATRIOT Act.

What Is the Patriot Act?

The Patriot Act, to give it its common name, was passed shortly after the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, but was not, as most people think, directly related to that. In fact, it’s passage through the houses of parliament was spurred on by the anthrax attacks of late 2001, when celebrities, politicians and plenty of others received suspicious packages of white powder in the mail.

This bit of mail-based nastiness was the perfect fuel on a fire already burning bright and on October 25, 2001, The U.S. Senate passed the, and it’s a mouthful, Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act. The Patriot Act passed both houses almost unanimously, with only 66 Representatives and a single Senator voting against this rather scary piece of legislation.

Now, ever since Edward Snowden came out and spilled the beans on PRISM, SOMALGET and all the other off-the-books programs organized by the NSA, CIA and whatever other alphabet agencies, we all have gotten used to that the government might be listening. Back in 2001, however, all this was new and many people could be forgiven for thinking that it would all blow over.

It didn’t. Many of the surveillance in place now on both Americans as well as other parts of the world was directly inspired by the programs that came out of the passing of the Patriot Act. It’s tempting to think that it was because legislators the world over saw the ease with which the U.S. was able to put a massive surveillance apparatus in place with approval from most of its people, but it’s hard to say exactly.

What’s In the Patriot Act?

Though it’s difficult to give a full overview of what the Patriot Act made possible, even a summary reads like some tinpot dictator’s wish list. The Act,

  • Allowed civilian authorities to request aid from the military to keep order in certain cases
  • Expanded the scope of the spying allowed on both U.S. citizens as well as foreigners in the name of “removing obstacles to investigating terrorism”
  • Introduced several new kinds of warrants, some of which could be served on the flimsiest of pretexts (including “sneak-and-peek” warrants)
  • Weakened banking secrecy regulations to prevent money laundering
  • Gave more authority to the various U.S. border protection agencies to refuse entry to people they didn’t like (if you’ve ever been yelled at at the U.S. border for wanting to go on holiday, now you know why)
  • Changed a whole bunch of legal terminology to make prosecuting suspected terrorists easier (so now pipe bombs are weapons of mass destruction)

For a full overview, Wikipedia has a great breakdown of the Patriot Act, though we recommend the usual grain of salt while reading this open-source encyclopedia.

For those wondering, the Patriot Act did not allow for extraordinary rendition (the fun practice where the U.S. would fly people out to sunny vacation spots to be tortured), it just made it easier to implement it. The basis for rendition was actually laid by Bill Clinton.

Effects of the Patriot Act . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

4 November 2017 at 1:22 pm

Robert Mercr is resigning from everything: Indictment coming?

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Robert Mercer is out of all business connections, is selling stake in Breitbart, moving away from Bannon, away from Trump. Cashing out quickly. Does that mean a Mueller indictment is headed his way and he’s trying to protect others.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 November 2017 at 4:15 pm

Not good news: White Supremacists Share Bomb-Making Materials in Online Chats

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A.C. Thompson and Ali Winston report in ProPublica:

Right-wing extremists communicating in confidential online chats in recent months have shared scores of documents detailing the manufacture and use of bombs, grenades, mines and other incendiary devices.

The documents, which range from instructions on detonating dynamite to U.S. military manuals for constructing improvised explosives and booby traps, were passed around during online conversations among members of Anticom, a secretive and militant group that has emerged during the past year.

Records of the online chats were made available to ProPublica by Unicorn Riot, a leftist media collective that has reported critically on racist marches and right-wing political rallies in cities around the U.S.

Anticom, or Anti-Communist Action, views itself as a guerilla army fighting against what it has called the radical elements of the country’s political left. On its social media channels, Anticom openly embraces fascist ideology and imagery, and the group’s members have engaged in hate-filled talk involving Jews, Muslims, immigrants and African Americans. In recent weeks Anticom has stepped out of the shadows as its members have provided security to so-called alt-right champion Richard Spencer at a speaking event in Florida. Anticom also helped to organize a “White Lives Matter” protest in Shelbyville, Tennessee, last weekend.

It is unclear how seriously the documents shared in the chats were explored by any of Anticom’s members or followers, much less whether the documents were actually used to craft incendiary devices. But the transcripts of the chats include racist talk and open mentions of mass killings.

The user who posted the bomb-making documents, for instance, said he or she wanted to overthrow the U.S. government. “Death to all non whites,” the user wrote in a chat forum post on April 26. Another Anticom member encouraged recruits to construct a bomb and use it to carry out an attack in the style of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

The chatroom logs shared with ProPublica show that Anticom members were in communication with another extremist group, several members of which have surfaced in federal investigations.

In May, federal agents searching the Tampa home of 21-year-old Brandon Russell discovered an array of explosives and bomb ingredients: fuses made from rifle shells, a white cake-like explosive substance called HMTD, more than one pound of ammonium nitrate and other explosive precursors, and two different kinds of radioactive material. The agents promptly arrested Russell, who was both a member of the Florida National Guard and a leader of Atomwaffen, a small fascist group calling for a “white revolution in the 21st century.”

Federal authorities only uncovered Russell’s bomb-making materials after his roommate and fellow Atomwaffen member Devon Arthurs killed two of their comrades. Arthurs later told law enforcement that he acted in order to prevent acts of domestic terrorism, and that Atomwaffen intended “to build a FourthReich.” Russell participated in “neo-Nazi internet chat rooms where he threatened to kill people and bomb infrastructure,” and was plotting to blow up a nuclear power plant near Miami, according to Arthurs.

After . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

2 November 2017 at 3:42 pm

We’re loosening the rules for killing. This won’t end well.

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Daniel Mahanty writes in USA Today:

Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.” John Quincy Adams, 1821

The U.S. military is going abroad in search of monsters to destroy, and Americans should be worried. New changes to U.S. counterterrorism policy, branded as getting decisions out of the White House and into the hands of commanders in the field, are going to make it easier to kill more people, in more places, with fewer explanations.

Loosening the rules for killing may seem like a favor to those charged with fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Qaeda. But in many ways, the latest and least bounded mutation of America’s war on terror may end up complicating, rather than simplifying, the job of our nation’s spies, soldiers and diplomats, now and for decades to come.

The U.S. military and CIA already employ lethal force against armed groups in up to seven countries across the Middle East and Africa, often times in secret. And, after receiving a briefing from Defense secretary James Mattis, Sen. Lindsey Graham told reporters to expect “more aggression by the United States toward our enemies, not less.” Niger may be next, NBC reports.

With each new country and adversary added to the list, the relationship between the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force and current U.S. operations becomes less and less recognizable. Even in places where the U.S. does not conduct strikes or raids on its own, these “train and advise” missions involving hundreds of special forces members in places like Niger, Somalia, and the Philippines may quickly escalate, thrusting U.S. forces into combat with little warning and deadly consequences. Any policy that increases the likelihood of expanding American military operations in the absence of debate and proper authorization from America’s highest legislative body, risks undermining American democracy by obscuring the truth of U.S. involvement in war and its deadly costs.

The proposed changes also risk further legitimating acts proscribed by international law, and thus weakening international norms in which the U.S. government has invested much to preserve an order which overwhelmingly serves its interests. Lowering the bar for taking the life of a person outside of (and sometimes within) a situation of armed conflict without due process should not be taken lightly. This trend could at some point cost America’s relationship with allies who support American counterterrorism operations on the basis of at least some pretense to lawfulness.

We are already seeing this play out in allied countries, such as the United Kingdom, Australia and Germany, where the public is increasingly calling on their government to clarify the legal basis for drone strikes. By setting rules that effectively permit killing anyone, anytime, anywhere, the United States is building a dangerous precedent for other states, many of whom are already arming drones for use as they see fit. This will certainly compromise America’s ability in the future to protest the practices of others when they begin to use lethal force against their adversaries, as they define them, and on their terms. This risk may seem acceptable when the world’s adversary is ISIS. But when the adversary is a humanitarian worker, an activist, a political opponent or even an American, it may be too late.

Perhaps most puzzling, for the many risks and costs involved, it’s hard to identify how setting fewer reasonable limits on killing really advances American interests or makes Americans safer. The administration has yet to articulate how any of its proposals serve some clear political end — other than annihilating terrorists — a goal that is as unachievable as it is dangerous to pursue.

Not all groups or individuals that profess affinity for ISIS or Al Qaeda necessarily pose a threat to the United States; even fewer present a threat that can actually be solved by launching a missile.  . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 November 2017 at 9:57 am

The entire global financial system depends on GPS, and it’s shockingly vulnerable to attack

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Tim Fernholz reports in Quartz:

There is an enormous, invisible clock that keeps ultra-precise time, can be checked from anywhere on earth, and is free for everyone to use. This technological gift to mankind was built by the US government. It is called the Global Positioning System (GPS), it lives in space, and you use it every time you check the map on your phone.

What you may not know is that you rely on it far more often than that. Cell towers use it to route your phone calls, ATMs and cash registers use it for your transactions, electrical grids use it to send power to your house, and stock exchanges use it to regulate the trades that go into your stock portfolio or investment fund. And it is far more vulnerable to attack and disruption than most people know or are willing to admit.

“When we talk about economic infrastructure, I don’t think the general public realizes the extent to which the Global Positioning System’s timing signal is critical for these ATM transactions and every other point-of-sale transaction conducted in the United States and throughout most of the world,” Michael Griffin, a former NASA administrator, told US space policymakers in early October. “To what extent do we believe that we have defended ourselves if an adversary can bring our economic system near collapse?”

Clockers

Time, as it turns out, is money, in a very literal sense. Since digital money moves faster than humans can think, banks and regulators alike rely on time stamps to monitor transactions, catch fraud, and make sure the right people get paid. When you pull cash from an ATM or swipe your card at the coffee shop, the machine needs to determine the precise time that the transaction occurs to, for example, prevent it from being over-drawn.

Putting a little clock in the credit-card machines wouldn’t work, because over time, even the most precise clocks start to differ from one another. That doesn’t matter when you’re meeting me for lunch at noon, but if you’re timing transactions down to the microsecond standard now used in many electronic networks, tiny differences can screw up your whole operation.

What makes the Global Positioning System so crucial, then, isn’t in fact the “positioning” part; it’s the ability to make machines all over the planet agree on exactly what time it is.

Developed and launched by the US military in the 1980s, GPS became fully operational in 1993. Today it consists of 31 satellites. Each satellite contains an atomic clock, which is synced regularly with high-precision timing devices at the US Naval Observatory. Phones, ATMs and other devices can pick up the timing signals from three or four satellites, and use the knowledge of exactly when each signal was sent to triangulate their position on earth.

Besides providing the military with better way-finding, the ubiquitous timing signal became a public good used by numerous private industries. “Why wouldn’t you use it?” Dana Goward, the president of the Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation, says. “It’s really, really good, you don’t have to pay a license fee, and it’s global.”

While the US GPS constellation is the preeminent source of this data, other nations have launched similar constellations: Russia’s GLONASS, China’s BeiDou and Europe’s Galileo, along with smaller regional services, offer a similar signal under the rubric of “GNSS”—Global Navigation Satellite System.

Time’s uses

It’s hard to find important digital infrastructure that doesn’t rely on GNSS. Because radio spectrum for mobile communications is limited, cellular phones and towers can’t just broadcast directly to each other; there’d be a data pile-up. Instead, these networks use the space efficiently by precisely timing bursts of communication back and forth, introducing intervals too short for people to notice. Even wired networks need to agree on precise timing to operate at full capacity.

The New York Stock Exchange relies on a set of GNSS antennae on the roof of its New Jersey server farm to time financial transactions, including those performed automatically by computers. Investors have spent millions improving their algorithms and communications systems to execute trades a few microseconds faster than their competitors, but all that would be for nought if they couldn’t agree on precisely what time each trade happened.

Even the modern electrical grid relies on ultra-precise synchronization to deliver power to high-demand areas at just the right time to prevent a blackouts without causing a dangerous power surge. And all that is before we get into the more obvious uses of GNSS technology to guide transportation of all kinds, from cars and delivery trucks to airplanes and container ships.

The driver dilemma

Some of the earliest clues to the vulnerability of GNSS came from rebellion against The Man. As drivers began using GNSS to plot their routes through traffic, their employers realized they had an easy way to keep an eye on workers and company cars—ensuring, for instance, that they weren’t taking a nap in a parking lot when they should be putting packages on doorsteps. Employees did not exactly like entering this panopticon, and the tech savvy among them discovered something interesting: It’s relatively easy to jam a GNSS signal.

The GPS satellites orbit more than 12,000 miles (19,000 km) above the earth, and rely on their own solar panels for power. This makes them, Goward says, the equivalent of “a 40-watt light bulb that was turned on in New York and viewed from California.” They are actually less powerful than the space background radiation known as the “cosmic hum.” Though it is illegal, it takes only a little tech savvy to build a device that broadcasts powerfully enough on the GNSS frequency to drown it out, and almost none to purchase an (illegal) jammer online for a few hundred dollars.

In 2008, Newark International Airport in the US began using GPS to help its air traffic controllers guide jets. Almost immediately, they noticed interference from passing vehicles on the nearby Interstate 95, a major highway. In 2012, following interference complaints, an FCC investigator discovered a contractor with a GPS jammer was working on airport property. The contractor was fined $32,000. That same year, the London Stock Exchange noticed that it was losing access to timing datafor about 10 minutes a day, likely because of a driver using a jammer.

These accidental interferences didn’t cause disaster because the home-built jammers have limited range. But there are more pernicious outcomes. In the UK, criminals have been found stealing luxury cars and using jammers to disrupt tracking systems.

And for more sophisticated entities, it’s possible to go beyond GNSS jamming to GNSS spoofing—not blocking the signal, but manipulating it to create different results. This is something that governments, particularly Russia’s and North Korea’s, do in warfare. In 2011, Iran captured a US drone that strayed into its airspace from Afghanistan, saying it used spoofing to lure the unmanned aircraft across the border. While the US government denied this, independent experts say it is quite possible.

Criminals could also take advantage of spoofing. The US Department of Homeland Security has reported drug cartels doing it to divert surveillance drones along the US-Mexican border. And Todd Humphreys, an engineering professor at the University of Texas, believes that spoofing GPS signals (pdf) used by stock exchanges could create opportunities for ill-gotten gains and disruptions like the 2010 “flash crash.”

“It could be happening subtly in financial markets even as we speak,” Goward told me. “The idea behind spoofing is to not let people know they’re doing it.”

You’ll note that none of the threats to GNSS we’ve mentioned are actually up in space with the satellites themselves. This isn’t because the satellites are entirely safe. They are vulnerable to space debris and to space weather—a large solar flare could be disastrous not just for GNSS but for much of earth’s electrical infrastructure. Warding off these threats is a largely a matter of mitigation, planning and keeping your fingers crossed.

The US military also frets about Chinese and Russian anti-satellite weapons, but it has the ability to spot these threats and strike back against them. “Kinetic attacks against the GPS constellation would be extremely bad, but are very unlikely,” Brian Weeden, a space expert at the Secure World Foundation, says. “It’s far easier to jam or interfere with the signals than it is to physically destroy the satellites.” If it gets to where major powers are shooting each other’s satellites out of the sky, we will all have bigger problems than dropped calls and broken ATMs.

Solving the problem . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

One obstacle to action is simply ignorance. “This is a hidden utility, because nothing really bad has happened. People either don’t know, or know about it and haven’t taken any action,” Goward says. “We need to get over the normal human, ‘well, it’s not a problem now so I’m not going to deal with it,’ and be a little bit proactive, before a solar flare or terrorist jamming or a system error comes along.”

The other obstacle is that the companies that depend most on this technology are reluctant to advertise their Achilles’ heel by lobbying for a more resilient system. Goward, whose job is drumming up industry support for these changes, says “the response almost universally has been, we’re not really interested in disclosing vulnerabilities of our products and services.”

Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2017 at 9:23 am

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